He Shou Wu (Fo-Ti): Benefits, Dosage, and Side Effects

Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2022
He Shou Wu (Fo-Ti)
Fo-ti dosage recommendations differ depending on the health condition, age, and general health.

He Shou Wu (Fo-ti) is a popular herbal remedy, commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Fo-ti is a rejuvenating plant and prevents or treats various health conditions, including:

It is believed to promote longevity and virility and enhance hair and skin health.

What is He Shou Wu?

He Shou Wu (Polygonum multiflorum) belongs to the Polygonaceae family and is a perennial climbing herb native to central and southern China, Japan, Tibet, and Taiwan. It is widely known in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its rejuvenating and toning properties.

The name “He Shou Wu” in the Chinese translation means “black-haired Mr. He” because of the youth-restoring effects it had on “Mr. He” when they discovered the herb.

It is also called:

  • Flowery knotweed
  • Climbing knotweed
  • Chinese cornbind
  • Tuber fleece flower

Various parts of the plant are utilized for different medicinal purposes, including the leaves, root tuber, stem, and rhizomes. The plant can grow to 30 feet in height and has red stems, heart-shaped leaves, and white or pink flowers.

What is He Shou Wu used for?

Though clinical trials lack supporting claims for therapeutic purposes, He Shou Wu is used by practitioners of traditional medicine to treat several health conditions, dating back to 713 AD.

He Shou Wu helps:

  • Increase liver and kidney function
  • Cleanse the blood
  • Relieve symptoms of premature aging
  • Prevent insomnia
  • Strengthen weak bones
  • Alleviate constipation
  • Prevent hardening and narrowing of the arteries
  • Prevent mental disorders
  • Lower lipid levels in the blood

In addition, roots, leaves, and stems of the fo-ti plant are used in tinctures, teas, and capsules.

Is He Shou Wu effective?

Laboratory (test-tube) studies and clinical data have demonstrated that He Shou Wu possesses various biological and therapeutic actions, including:

  • Antitumor
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-HIV
  • Liver protection
  • Nephroprotection
  • Antidiabetic
  • Anti-alopecia
  • Antiatherosclerotic activities.

However, research on humans confirming its health effects is limited and of poor quality. Studies have suggested that it can cause liver damage in humans.

What is the recommended dosage of He Shou Wu?

Fo-ti dosage recommendations differ depending on the health condition, age, and general health.

Although there have been no clinical studies supporting a specific dosage of fo-ti, the most used daily dose is 9 to 15 grams of raw herb. A standard dose in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia is 3 to 12 grams per day.

When taking fo-ti in capsule or supplement form, always look for a product that lists the correct plant name, and do not take this supplement without consulting a doctor, especially for extended periods.


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7 potential benefits of He Shou Wu

He Shou Wu affects the levels of various chemicals in the body and has antiaging effects because of its antioxidants and beneficial compounds. It might increase the number of hair follicles and stimulate hair growth. Clinical data, however, is lacking to support any of these claims.

  1. Has anti-inflammatory effects: Bioactive compounds, including anthraquinones, emodin, rhein, stilbene glucosides, and chrysophanic acids, possess anti-inflammatory effects and treat conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases and dyslipidemia.
  2. Can improve skin health: Can treat acne, sores, carbuncles, skin eruptions, itching, athlete’s foot, dermatitis, razor burn, and scrapes because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
  3. May promote hair growth and reduce greying: Significantly induces melanin synthesis, has a positive effect on hair pigment, and acts as a potential agent to treat early hair graying and other loss of pigmentation-related diseases.
  4. Relieves constipation: The raw fo-ti root acts as a natural laxative, alleviating constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.
  5. Can help improve sleep quality: Some pieces of evidence suggest that the bioactive compounds present in fo-ti may have beneficial effects on anxiety and insomnia in patients with bipolar disorder.
  6. May increase estrogen levels and manage menopausal symptoms: Researchers speculate that it may contain high levels of isoflavones, a substance that mimics estrogen. It may help manage symptoms caused by decreased estrogen levels, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and low sex drive.
  7. May fight age-related memory problems: One of the anti-inflammatory and bioactive compounds purified from the fo-ti root can help significantly reduce age-related changes in the hippocampus section of the brain, This offers neuroprotection that may help prevent Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

6 possible side effects of He Shou Wu

Though fo-ti has been used for hundreds of years and claimed to have many healing abilities, it may cause certain side effects and more serious health risks.

  1. Some of the general side effects include diarrheanausea, abdominal pain, changes in blood sugar levels, dizziness, and vomiting.
  2. Some studies have linked this herb to potential liver-related problems, including liver damage and worsening liver disease.
  3. A systematic review including a total of 450 cases in 76 articles reported that fo-ti can cause liver toxicity, may damage the liver in different degrees, and lead to death.
  4. May be toxic to the kidneys, nerves, and embryos.
  5. Fo-ti can interact with several prescription medications, including antidiabetes, hepatotoxic drugs, warfarin, diuretics, and stimulant laxatives, such as digoxin.
  6. Because it mimics estrogen in the body, pregnant or breastfeeding women need to be cautious before taking this herb.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/25/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Review of clinical studies of Polygonum multiflorum Thunb and its isolated bioactive compounds. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471648/

Fo-Ti. https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2092003

Polygonum Multiflorum. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548795/